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Why the work you’re focussing on in your career change might actually be a procrastination tactic.

Why the work you're focussing on in your career change might actually be a procrastination tactic.. Aerial view of a line of beach umbrellas on the sand with a transparent blue sea.

How do you procrastinate?

Is it suddenly deciding that the toilet is disgusting and needs to be cleaned right now?

How about the reorganisation of the fridge becoming an urgent priority?

Do you like adjusting the colour coding in your calendar…again?

Or maybe you favour writing lists to try and rearrange what needs to be done for another day.

I like tackling the small non-urgent items on my to do list that don’t take much brain power but require some time to get them completed, thereby making me feel like I’m achieving something, albeit the least important things 🙄.

Now, you’re probably well aware that you use these types of activities to put off doing the task or taking the important action that will move something forward.

But what about the procrastination tactics that come disguised as meaningful work?

Yes, I would wager you do suffer at the hands of these, although you might not know it. 

These are the actions that make it feel like you are doing work but there’s not actually much real progression – they are actions that live firmly in your comfort zone keeping you ‘safe’ and dare I say it, stuck.

Let’s see which of these little suckers you recognise and unpack how they have you feeling like you’re achieving something important as you explore a new career:

Researching – you diligently scour the internet for information about your new career idea, following new data sources, gathering all that you can to enable you to make a decision about your next step. You talk to people frequently, asking for chats to validate what you’ve been learning and to gain further insider insights and more valuable sources of information. You feel all of this activity is building a robust foundation on which you can build your new career.

Reading – you enjoy this method of assimilating information and as you broaden and deepen your understanding you get a good sense of whether this new career possibility is for you. You can fit reading around other demands on your time and it helps you imagine what it could be like to work in this field which makes you feel more hopeful and buoyant about your future.

Thinking – you give yourself time to process all the information you’ve been gathering, letting threads weave together to form a bigger picture, mulling over the pros and cons, exploring the effect this new career choice will have on you and your life and weighing up the hopes and fears that this change surfaces. It’s important you give due consideration to the impact of this new career change because you feel then you’re as ready as you can be for what is to come.

Learning – you understand the value of learning by doing alongside information gathering, so you have been undertaking some workshops and short courses. You are dedicating time and money to begin testing whether your new career idea resonates with you and the only way to truly begin gauging this is in the hands on learning environment. You feel you are taking action.

Mindset work – you know how important working on unpacking what’s at play in your thought processes and emotions is as you work towards your new career. Paying attention to this area will reap dividends as all the baggage that has held you back in the past will no longer be controlling the narrative. You feel this is setting you up for long-term success.

It’s important to note that each of these – researching, reading, thinking, learning and mindset work – are all valuable and critical to a successful career change. 

However, you don’t want to find yourself staying in one of them (or a few) for longer than necessary because it feels good – you will become stuck in your journey.

How do you know if this is happening to you?

Take a moment to identify which of the approaches you are currently putting your time and energy into and then ask yourself what doing this is giving you.

Then ask, what else is it giving me?

What else?

And, what else?

You are digging deep to discover what’s really motivating you to spend all your time here.

If you find answers that relate to fear, discomfort, uncertainty, unease, anxiety and worry then you are probably using this ‘work’ as a procrastination tool to keep you ‘safe’, no matter how good it feels.

Of course, it is perfectly possible that you’re doing exactly what’s required for the career change stage you’re at, so don’t search around for some underlying motivation that isn’t there – just treat this enquiry as a good test to confirm you’re not procrastinating.

If you have observed that the focus of your career change is, or might be, procrastination in disguise, I suggest you challenge yourself to dive into action that involves experiencing the career idea you are exploring as day-to-day work, as a job, which goes beyond the learning environment.

For example:

  • shadow someone in the field.
  • create your own small project to work on.
  • volunteer for a day or a week.
  • ask your contacts if they can suggest how you can gain experience working in your chosen area or job and then try it.
  • offer your services for small projects to friends.  Examples could include interior design, website building, accounting, creating some artwork, writing, decluttering, researching a family’s history, cooking, baking, hosting wine tasting, garden landscaping…the ideas are endless!

The aim is for you to move into testing out your career idea in the real world, rather than gathering information about it and experiencing it in a learning environment.

Now you’re making real progress! 

Taking some real world action might feel very uncomfortable and play into the fears and worries that your chosen procrastination tactic was helping you avoid.  

If this is the case, it’s probably likely you are doing exactly what’s needed to really move your career change along.

Here’s to taking some meaningful action!

Photo by Alexander Slash on Unsplash.